Real Madrid secured their progress to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals as a comfortable 2-0 win over Osasuna at the El Sadar sent them through 4-0 on aggregate.
It was a far from spectacular performance against an Osasuna side that offered scant resistance. The hosts provided a gift for Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo midway through the opening half when goalkeeper Andres Fernandez bundled the Madrid man’s free-kick into the net. Angel di Maria scored another after the break before Madrid’s night was marred somewhat late on by a second yellow card for Fabio Coentrao and an injury to Alvaro Morata.
Needing something special to overcome their two-goal first-leg deficit, a roaring start might have been expected by Osasuna on a ground where Real Madrid had won just once on their last five visits and had fallen two goals behind last month before salvaging a 2-2 draw. Instead they were strangely subdued. And 21 minutes in, the hosts’ acquiescing approach was taken a step further when Madrid were presented with an opening goal.
Ronaldo undoubtedly puts plenty of fear into goalkeeper when he steps up to a free-kick, but the reaction of Fernandez was uneasy in the extreme. As is standard for a Ronaldo free-kick, there was dip and swerve on the strike form 25 yards, yet it was almost straight at the Osasuna goalkeeper and it was difficult to comprehend why he elected to punch rather than catch it. The results of his decision were hugely embarrassing as the ball bounced down, struck Fernandez’s feet and trickled over the line, before he could claw it back.
Fernandez did at least get some confidence back when he made a routine stop to deny Ronaldo getting a second minutes later. It wasn’t until the last five minutes of the opening period, though, that Javi Garcia’s side showed any hint of making the match a legitimate contest.
Alvaro Cejudo came closest to getting Osasuna on the score-sheet with a low curling effort from the edge of the box that struck the foot of the post. Iker Casillas, again getting a run out in the cup competitions, was given some work to do too when forced to repel efforts from Miguel Angel de las Cuevas and Roberto Torres before the interval.
But Osasuna failed to build on that momentum in a second half that petered out into a non-event. The most intriguing aspect of the match was Real Madrid’s formation. With Karim Benzema left on the bench, Carlo Ancelotti went with a 4-3-3, with Di Maria as part of a midfield three, alongside Xabi Alonso and Asier Illarramendi. Up front Isco was deployed as a false nine, coming deep to open up space in behind for Cristiano Ronaldo and Jese on either side, though the trio interchanged fluidly.
Di Maria took full advantage of his role coming forward from deep to produce the one bright spot of the second half. There may well have been a foul in the buildup from Alonso, but, with play allowed to go on, Jese, who again looked bright, did superbly to get to the byline before pulling the ball back for Di Maria to meet it with a controlled finish into the corner of the net.
Coentrao failed to do his prospects for more regular first-team action any good with a stupid challenge to unsubtly take down Oier with a high tackle that could have led to a straight red card rather than just a second yellow. Another man looking to make an impression, Morata, also had a disappointing evening. The young forward, who Madrid continue to claim will not be allowed to leave the club this month, initially stayed on following a nasty blow to his eye. But minutes later, looking groggy and with his eye almost completely closed up, he was forced to stumble off to leave Madrid to play out the remaining minutes with nine men.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.